The Kindness Post – Reaching out to colleagues and new friends
March 25, 2019 - The Kindness Post is a concept that Psynergy’s Shanna Thompson had been thinking about for quite a while. Thompson is the program director at Nueva Vista Sacramento. She noticed that some residents never seemed to get mail, and were always a little disappointed when others opened their cards and letters. She suspected that the same situation existed at Psynergy’s other two properties as well, and the glimmer of an idea was born.
“Pursuing random acts of kindness is kind of a theme for me,” says Thompson. “A lot of the residents were sad that they didn’t get any mail. Seeing those sad faces got to me. Without making it too complicated, I thought perhaps we could bridge the gap between our three facilities here in California. Through mail, clients could get to know residents at other facilities, and anyone who enjoys getting mail was welcome to participate.”
Reaching out with kindness
Thompson put together a month-long pilot program to work out the details, reaching out to program managers Cathy Adams at Nueva Vista Morgan Hill, and Krystle Teneyuque at Cielo Vista in Greenfield. Adams and Teneyuque recruited participants from their residents, and Thompson matched up all three properties. When the numbers were unequal, the program managers created some extra cards or craft items that could be enjoyed by anyone.
“We learned quickly that we couldn’t match a single client with another indefinitely in a classic pen-pal situation,” says Thompson. “Not everyone would want to participate every week. Also, letters might become too personal long-term. So we expanded the initiative to include craft items like key chains with a motivational quote on them, and bracelets. We also create handmade cards specific to upcoming holidays. Some residents make more than one card or item to even out the numbers. One of the best things to come out of this project has been the high level of collaboration and ongoing dialogue between the program managers – it’s been really inspiring!”
Cathy Adams, program director in Morgan Hill, was quick to credit Shanna Thompson for a great idea, and then embellish it further.
“We made some beautiful Valentines for Kindness Post, and then we started coming up with themes to write about and exotic materials to make it more fun,” says Adams. “I spend a lot of time sourcing attractive and motivating materials that people are excited to use and receive. Right now the folks are having fun with leaves and metallic papers and feathers.”
Making connections and supporting creativity
When a resident gets a letter, it comes from someone identified by a first name and last initial. Many times the message is very simple – Hello, my names is, I hope this finds you well. The Kindness Post groups meet on Tuesdays. Emails are exchanged between the program directors noting how many people participate, and Shanna Thompson matches up the participants to make sure that everyone who writes a letter, gets a letter. And while some residents might want to write to the same person every time, that isn’t always possible as people come and go in the program. And as Krystle Teneyuque, the new program director at Cielo Vista has discovered, that’s really not the point.
“Kindness Post is not intended to be a pen-pal program in the traditional sense–rather, it is an ongoing outlet for creativity and connection,” she says. Teneyuque says that talents emerge from Kindness Post that she hadn’t seen residents display before.
“It’s an awesome idea,” she relates. “It encourages residents to keep up their writing skills, and when it comes to the crafts angle, it creates opportunities for positive support – as in ‘Wow, I didn’t realize you could do this,’ or ‘I didn’t know you were an artist!’ If a resident needs support with writing or spelling, we can join in and work together.”
At Nueva Vista Sacramento, Thompson is already planning her next batch of mail.
“This week we’re making paper Hope Jars. They are shaped like a Mason jar and will be filled with hopeful, motivational quotes. When a resident is feeling down and needs a coping skill or uplifter, they can look in their Hope Jar and pick out a quote,” she said.
Thompson says she hopes that each resident will look at Kindness Post as an opportunity to connect to multiple new friends.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and excited that the other program directors are on board,” she says. “I love the collaboration. It’s really rewarding when we can do a project that reaches all of our Psynergy facilities!”